Leah Letson might be considering a change of teams, but for now she’s helping coach Robert Whittaker keep his hot streak going.
Team Whittaker evened the score with Team Gastelum at three wins apiece with a third straight victory on this week’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter 28 as Letson took a unanimous decision win over Bea Malecki.
The bout was an ugly battle of attrition that saw both women come out firing to start, then gradually slow as the damage piled up. Malecki scored first blood in round one, using her Muay Thai expertise to score with kicks from distance and then wading through Letson’s punches to cut her forehead open with a few well-timed elbows. However, Letson would later get deep on a takedown attempt and scoop Malecki up for a slam. Landing elbows and short punches from side control, it looked like Letson stole round one.
Neither fighter looked particularly fresh in round two, but Letson was consistently first, even if her efficiency left something to be desired. She began to land with punches consistently before a slow takedown attempt nearly cost her the fight. Malecki evaded the shot and quickly moved to take Letson’s back and apply a choke, but it was loose and Letson spun out of it.
Letson then scored with a single leg takedown and settled into Malecki’s guard, where she pulled away on the scorecards with more ground-and-pound. The buzzer sounded with Letson in top position, confident that she’d won the fight.
A technician in the Wisconsin International Guard, Letson (4-1) hadn’t fought in 18 months prior to filming TUF. Her last official win was a first-round head kick knockout of UFC vet Elizabeth Phillips at Invicta FC 21. She advances to the semifinals of the TUF 28 featherweight tournament.
Malecki, a native of Sweden, was competing in the most high-profile MMA bout of her career after going 3-0 as an amateur and competing in over 20 Muay Thai fights. She comes from the Allstars Training Center in Stockholm, alongside the likes of Alexander Gustafsson and Ilir Latifi.
In the previous weeks’ episodes, Letson had been contemplating joining forces with coach Kelvin Gastelum due to her struggles to communicate with the mostly international Team Whittaker squad and what she perceived to be a lack of intensity from the coaching staff. She said she would base her decision on whether to change teams on how she felt in the Malecki fight.
Whittaker and company were fully focused on Letson’s development in this episode and she pulled out a win, so it remains to be seen what she decides to do before her next fight.
Here are the first-round results so far:
Maurice Greene def. Przemyslaw Mysiala via KO (uppercut) in round one
Pannie Kianzad def. Katharina Lehner via unanimous decision
Justin Frazier def. Anderson da Silva via unanimous decision
Julija Stoliarenko def. Marciea Allen via submission (armbar) in round one
Michel Batista def. Josh Parisian via TKO (ground and pound) in round two
Leah Letson def. Bea Malecki via unanimous decision
On next week’s episode, Team Whittaker’s Juan Franciso Espino fights fights Team Gastelum’s Ben Sosoli in a heavyweight bout.
Season 28 of The Ultimate Fighter is being coached by UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker and top contender Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum will challenge Whittaker for the middleweight title at a future date to be determined.
The finalists of the TUF 28 heavyweight and featherweight tournaments will compete for a six-figure UFC contract at The Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale on Nov. 30 in Las Vegas.
Here is the TUF 28 roster divided by team:
Juan Francisco Espino
Anderson da Silva
Advancing to Round 2: Greene, Kianzad, Frazier, Stoliarenko, Batista, Letson
Eliminated: Mysiala, Lehner, Da Silva, Allen, Parisian, Malecki